Donations are published anonymosly hereOctober 2008
Holy Cross Mission and Hospital,
Belatanr, District Giridhi
When I was looking for an elective posting in India more than five years ago, I came across a report about this remote hospital. I had applied at that time and received a positive answer from Dr. Sister Victoria Aind. As I started to look into the matter more in depth, I found out that the District Giridhi lies in the state of Jharkhand, which had recently resulted from the division of the poorest state in India, Bihar. In the travel guide it is says that this area has political uprisings, the newspapers report again and again of mobs and murders. When I was in Vellore at the time, everyone advised me against going to this area.
I did not dare to go to Belatanr at the time, but the inviting letter of Sr. Victoria never went out of my mind, so that we made a big effort to come here.
The only place, which we could find in our quite good atlas of India was Giridhi. But none of our travel guides metioned anything about Giridhi. So we set out for the unknown.
With the night train we rode from Varanasi through Bihar to Jasidih. Our co-pasangers told us to pay special attention to our luggage. We continued by taxi and drove 80 km to Giridhi. Our driver did not speak any English and did not know his way about in Giridhi either.
By luck we went to Hotel Swagat (service recommended). As it turned out later, the owner operates a printing press, which takes orders of the Holy Cross Mission. So the manager could organize a Riksha driver to take us to the address of the mission in Giridhi. The sister said that there would be a vehicle of the mission leaving for Belatanr at 5 o'clock the next morning and could give us a lift.
We were back in our hotel before dusk and did not dare leave the hotel even for supper.
At the break of dawn the next day we, two sisters of the convent and a driver drove the 70 km by jeep through rural India. During the two-hour jouney we passed hardly any vehicles except uncountable heavely loaded bicycles with coal (!). The coal was "stolen" from a mine close by. Roadside villages with huts built of bricks or mud alternated with rice fields and baren country. Roaming goats, cows and dogs forced the driver occasionally to slam on the brakes.
The hospital is part of the mission of the Holy Cross Sisters. In the 70 km surrounding the hospital there are hardly no further physicians and no hospital. And most patients have only a bicycle and perhaps the possibility to use a tractor to get here.
We did not have any idea what we were expecting. In the three days we spent in the mission, we were extremely impressed by what these 17 mission sisters are achieving. Everyone is a specialist in her field and is the "head of her department". Sr. Victoria is gynecologist and has worked in this hospital for the last 25 years.
The sisters organize the primary health care in the villages, train midwives in the most important aspects of home birth and do social work. For example they draw the attention of the usually analphabetic rural population to the right of the poorest ones to receive a national pension and help them in applying for it.
Several sisters teach in a school with 500 pupils meaning 80 to 100 kids in a classroom and conduct adult education.
Further they manufacture mosquito repellant and run an agricultural farm supplying a larger part of their needs, that of the pupils and the employees.
Holy Cross Hospital
The hospital has 70 beds and an accordingly busy outpatients clinic. A physician comes from a town 40 km away and works half days beside Dr. Sr. Victoria in the OPD.
Only few patients can be referred if necessary to Giridhi into the district hospital, so that the sprectrum of patients is very wide. There are very many complicated births. The simple ones are conducted by midwives in the villages. Snake bites are frequent. Unfortunately patients are often brought too late, after the therapeutic attempts of the quack were unsuccessful. A young girl died for this reason during our stay after being stung by a skorpion and developiung a pulmonary edema.
The many tuberkulose patients are treated in a separate building. The nationally coordinated and partly financed D.O.T.s program plans that the patients are treated as in-patients for two months and folowed up in the village thereafter.
In this area leprosy is still a frequent illness. These patients are treated in a further building. This bacterial illness leads to heavy mutilation, if it is not treated early with antibiotics. Also the wounds can get infected and lead to severe complications. The sisters receive financial aid for these patients from a European NGO.
During and after the rainy season the most frequent diagnosis for admission is malaria. Particularly children and women suffer from severe illnesses. Due to the bad nutrition, births and many misscarriges, the haemoglobin value (red blood coloring material) is already low. The malarial parasites lead to a destruction of the red blood cells, so that the HB value falls not rarely under 4mg/dl. This is a severe condition for the patient carrying the respective risk.
The hospital is very clean and the operating room too. The OT is equipped for shorter and uncomplicated procedures, but a puls oxymeter would be extremely helpful in the improvement of the service. A small laboratory, ultrasound and a x-ray unit are present.
The physicians have to fight with many problems. The mass of patients, the limited budget and frequently patients not being able to pay for their treatment force economy. The most difficult saving, also for Sr Victoria, is the repeated use of i.v. needles for the drip despite their disinfection. She says she would rather give a patient a less than optimal therapy than no therapy at all.
Very expensive medicines, e.g. those that are necessary for the therapy of multi-resistant tuberculosis, are hardly affordable.
Relatives of patients who desparately need a blood transfusion are very difficult to convince, since the Santhals (Indian natives, who constitute the largest part of the patients) believe that they would die by donating blood.
Many patients come only in a late stage of the illness. Partly because they trust the local healers in the villages, partly because they come from far away and transportation is very expensive, so that they see the hospital only as the LAST option. So treatment is more difficult and increases costs or is even too late.
Susanne and I are extremely impressed by the great achievement these warm-hearted and devoted mission sisters and what they are doing in this remote and dangerous part of India. The deep faith of these 17 sisters does not lead to a christian indoctrination of the population, but they take the unbelievable strength they need for their work from God. Susanne cried emotionaly upon our good-bye.
Notes for Volunteers and Donations
Students are welcome to do an elective periode here. But Dr. Sr. Victoria has had repeated enquiries in the last 8 years. But nobody actually came. This means unnecessary additional work for the doctor. Thus: Each student willing to learn is welcome, but should be concious that the hospital lies far far away from any western traveller infrastructure (Pizza, Internet, sight seeing and pastime) and the surrounding countryside can not be explored alone. So one is limited to the large park-like area of the mission. Sr. Victoria thinks that in the long term for many foreigners the Indian food (meals are taken together with the sisters) can become problematic and homesickness can arise.
Probably quite helpful for you to feel comfortable is to know the christian rites, because several services are held daily by the sisters. To take part in these would help to integrate into this circle.
All sisters will make the greatest effort in their warm hearted manner to make you feel comfortable during your stay here.
Sr. Victoria has many patients suffering from stones on the one hand and on the other hand many patients with burn contractures or clefts, where she could do with specialists with experience, who would conduct a camp for a few weeks. Interested doctors should directly conntact the hospital on a long-term basis, because patients must be ordered in, so that there is lots of work when you arrive!
Particularly experiencing nurses in the area of neonates and intensive care can do valuable work here, also in the further training of the local nurses.
The hospital could desparately use a pulse oxymeter for surveilance during operations and the monitoring of premature births.
Sr. Victoria hopes to reduce the number deaths of newborn children by the use of an incubator.
A vacuum extractor (suction bell) could reduce the use of forceps with their complications and also the number of caesarians.
A larger solar-cell plant that covers the basic needs for power, would lower the extremely high running cost of the diesel generators (1 liter diesel costs 80 euro cent, an agricultural worker earns not even 2 euro a day and feeds a whole family).
Money to buy enough i.v. drip needles is absolutly desparately needed, as for the many other "little things", which are missing so much.
Financial donations and donations of material should be co-ordinated with the mother mission house in Switzerland in order to get around importation problems and to reduce the losses with money transactions.
Everyone with questions can gladly contact us!
Elias, Shantiniketan 27/9/05Mother Mission House in Brunnen,Switzerland Sr. Selma Nalloor, General Councellor Institute Ingenbohl CH-6440 Brunnen Switzerland Europe http://www.kloster-ingenbohl.ch/ Hospital and Mission in Belatanr, India Dr. Sr. Victoria Aind Holy Cross Hospital Belatanr P.O. Ghoranji District Giridih PIN 815314 Mobile: 0091-9431182098
Entrance to the outpatient clinics
The park-like grounds
A classical dance performance of the pupils for us
Mothers day: a performance after the service
What US-AID can be used for...